4 weeks before departure

Check your Health Insurance coverage

Maintenance or Daily Medications

If you take daily pharmaceuticals that you get from a US Pharmacy each month, you may experience some challenges if you travel to Indonesia for more than 2 – 3 weeks.   Call your pharmacy in advance to be sure you can get the drugs you need for your entire stay. It is EXTREMELY HARD to have your drugs follow you by being mailed/shipped from the USA – the shipments will come under a lot of scrutiny and may be delayed. Try to take the drugs you need with you. If you can’t, get the script from your USA doctor  and bring it to the pharmacy in Indonesia since many drugs are ‘over the counter’ in Indonesia. You may need to see an Indonesian physician to receive a prescription, the name brands used in Indonesia may be different than in the USA, and understand that like the USA opioids are carefully controlled in Indonesia. Googling ‘Australia – Indonesia Pharmacy Concordance’ will help you find either the same drug using a different name, or a similar drug, in Indonesia. Understand that the drugs purchased in Indonesia may not be eligible for reimbursement by USA health insurance because the insurer may not recognize the name of the drug or it may not be on their approved schedule. You can appeal that decision and see what happens.

Activating your cell phone

Here are 2 stories that occurred representing the range of issues with US cell phones in Indonesia.

One traveler checked with T Mobile and determined there was free data and texting in Indonesia included in his US plan. He traveled around the country 2 weeks texting and search www sites, returned to the US, and incurred no extra charges.

A second traveler checked with Verizon and determined there were roaming charges. He decide to turn his phone off on arrival in Indonesia. He plugged in his phone to charge overnight which had the effect of turning the phone on. Since apps were running in the background, before he woke up in the morning he inadvertently accrued $50 in roaming charges.

Therefore, check diligently with your US provider to determine what is included. Make a decision as to whether you will use only your US phone with roaming, or if you will obtain an Indonesian telephone sim card and number on arrival. Generally, if you are in Indonesia for less than a week with only a small number of tasks, you can get away with data and text only. If you are there for 3 weeks you will likely want to get Indonesian 4G service on arrival with voice, data, and text. Regardless of what you decide, have your US provider electronically ‘unlock’ your phone so a new sim card can be placed in it on arrival in Indonesia. Historically US providers worked hard to talk customers out of this option, since they cannot charge the exhorbitant roaming fees, but more recently they are willing to unlock your cell. If you get any resistance then ask to speak to a supervisor. The sim card is a small electronic card inside the phone to which the phone number is attached. A ‘locked phone’ is synced only to the US sim card. An ‘unlocked’ phone allows users to insert other sim cards. When overseas you can buy a new sim card for small money so that your ‘US Phone’ will become an ‘Indonesian phone’ with an Indonesian number. On return to the US you swap the sim cards back. Note that a small number of US phones, mostly Motorolas, do not have a sim card, which means if you want to have an Indonesian number you have to buy a cheapie Indonesian phone since there is no sim card to swap out in your US phone.

In Indonesia, cell phones are called Handphones, abbreviated HP (pronounced hah-pay).

On arrival in Indonesia, bring your passport and HP to a cell phone store and bring a local with you. Locals will have different preferences and different companies have better coverage in some cities than others, but generally if you’re in Java choose Telkomsel. If you’re traveling across Indonesia choose Indosat. Indosat works marginally less well than Telkomsel, but it works in even the most rural areas.

At the store you will buy a sim card ($5) and a data/voice/text plan. Texts are called sms. You will also need to pre-pay for minutes (called pulsa) and data. Decide on how much you want, but usually $10 for limited use and $30 for moderate use is about right. Have the store clerk show you how to check your balance and if there is any special access/discount code to call the USA. Check the data, voice, and text features before you leave the store. If you run out of pulsa you can go to most shops, provide your number and how much pulsa you want to buy, and be recharged in 5 mins. Most people buy additional minutes in 100,000 IDR blocks. It will cost about 105,000 IDR, because it’s 100,000 for the pulsa and 5,000 for a service charge.

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